Back in May 2011, it took me a miracle to leave Gaza through the Rafah Crossing in order to join the Young Leaders Visitors Programme in Sweden. Among the many wonderful people I met were Dima, from Syria, and Thana, from Yemen.
In October 2016, I met Dima and Thana in London, five years after our Swedish exchange. Thana told us how she had to apply for a very special - and expensive – permit in order to travel to Jordan, just to apply for a British visa, which was issued just in time for her to catch the last flight from Sanaa to London before Sanaa’s airport was closed in August due to air strikes in the country.
Whereas back in Sweden, Palestine was the most intricate and emotional topic, this time in London, our conversation felt heavier, gloomier, and completely depressing. The three of us felt mentally and emotionally exhausted. The three of us had no way of returning to our home countries. We had grown older – not just in age, but the suffering and injustice we all endured had made us outgrow our age.
Whereas the victims (in Gaza, Aleppo, or Sanaa) feel betrayed by the complicit silence of world leaders, those who watch from outside feel betrayed by their inability to do much.
This time, instead of being a betrayed victim, I’m in the position of a betrayed watcher: Betrayed by the media, by the double standards that rule the world, and, worst of all, by knowledge of the fact that sympathy is prompted by hatred for a certain enemy, not genuine support for all victims.
Boris Johnson expressed “profound concern” for the ongoing suffering of people in Aleppo, mainly blaming Russia, an old enemy of the West.
Similarly, not much is being reported on the civilians caught in the crossfire in Mosul, where the United States-led coalition forces have not fulfilled the assurances they made to protect civilians, according to a report by Amnesty International..
Sympathy gives rise to a class of “experts” on the cause. A video featuring “expert” Eva Bartlett’s pro-Assad analysis of the situation in Aleppo went viral, as she apparently held “the truth about Aleppo”.
A documentary, This is Exile: Diaries of Children Refugees, was screened at an event in London last month, and was followed with a panel of four speakers, none of whom were Syrian.
Similarly, a film by UNICEF called, Children on the Frontline, was followed by a discussion with the film’s director, an “expert” on Syria “who has recently returned from working as the BBC’s Middle East Correspondent.”
Another fundraiser for Save the Children called, Festive Feast from the Middle East, invited people to buy $80 tickets in order to enjoy “a night of festive fun with delicious food, great wine, international DJs, xmas market and more, all for an incredible cause!” Do the organisers of this Save the Children “feast” really think that Syrian people – whom they claim to be enjoying their “festive feast” in order to help – think of their suffering as an “incredible” cause?
It is more important for us to expose and stand up to the double-faced intentions of those who claim to sympathise with us and exploit our suffering, rather than “Like” each other’s causes on Facebook.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Time to reclaim our